Do Excuses Disrupt Your Progress?

“I didn’t have time to get to it.”

“Something happened to pull me away from the task.”

“It’s on my list of things to do.”

Do these statements (or their countless variations) sound familiar? Are you surrounded by others’ excuses? Or maybe you find that excuses easily “trip off your tongue” when you have failed to meet expectations?

The problem: 

A culture of excuse-making diminishes organizational value and delays organizational progress. The blame game weakens team performance. Team members’ procrastination impacts the ability to achieve results.

The solution:

Adopt a “zero-tolerance” approach to excuses – at all levels of your organization. Encourage an environment where one is not chastised for what they didn’t do, but instead celebrated for what they did do.

the dog ate my homeworkMany excuses are generated from our desire to look good among our peers and our leaders. As we mature and assume responsibilities in the workplace, much more personal accountability is required.  No longer can we get away with pushing the problem to someone else (the equivalent of “the dog ate my homework”).  The effective team member is accountable for his/her actions.

Channeling the spirit of Dr. Stephen Covey and his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, we each have a choice.  And our choices can turn us into a victim or a victor.

In the Forbes article, “Excuses, Excuses: Leadership that Avoids the Blame Game”, Rodger Dean Duncan interviews Dr. Margaret Bradley, author of Wouldacouldashoulda: Rapid Results, No Excuses. Bradley states “Eliminating excuses gives your team an edge by enabling it to work faster while maintaining a high level of quality.”

Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.

– George Washington Carver

To create an excuse-free environment:

  • Start with clear expectations. Encourage honest, up-front, two-way, non-judgmental communication. Cultivate an engaged and purposeful environment.
  • Listen to yourself and your teammates. Are you hearing excuses? Awareness is the first step on the zero-tolerance journey. Instead of excuses, take the “high road”. If you didn’t do it, say so – without excuse.
  • Be a leader and model the appropriate accountability behaviors by eliminating all types of excuses from your vocabulary. And, encourage that same honest approach among your team.

It’s about accountability – to self and others. No excuses. Simple.

On a related note:

Excuses often incorporate the blame game. If you are seeing rampant finger pointing in your organization, I recommend that you take a quick read of John G. Miller’s book, QBQ, The Question Behind the Question. Miller’s content helps you reframe your questions from the you-oriented blaming “who”, “when”, and “why” to the I-oriented information gathering “what” and “how”.

A question for you:

What techniques do you use to eliminate excuses from your workplace?



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